The federal criminal trial of former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan was placed on hold Monday for at least three weeks while the defendant’s attorney recovers from an illness.
Chan is facing a dozen criminal counts, including racketeering conspiracy, bribery, honest services fraud and lying to federal agents for his alleged role in a complex pay-to-play scheme that prosecutors say soaked developers for millions of dollars in exchange for getting their building projects approved at City Hall.
The trial began Feb. 21. On Friday, U.S. District Judge John Walter learned that Chan’s lawyer, Harland Braun, had fallen ill and was in a hospital. At a hearing Monday, Walter placed the trial on hold until March 27 while Braun recovers from the undisclosed illness.
The 80-year-old Braun is one of the city’s best known criminal defense attorneys. His clients have included Roman Polanski, Roseanne Barr, John Landis, Gary Busey, Chris Farley and others.
Chan, 66, of Monterey Park, is accused of being a key member of what prosecutors dubbed the Council District 14 enterprise, a conspiracy in which former Los Angeles City Councilman JosÃ© Huizar — assisted by others — unlawfully used his office to give favorable treatment to real estate developers who financed and facilitated bribes and other illicit benefits.
Huizar pleaded guilty in January in Los Angeles federal court to felony charges for using his powerful position at City Hall to enrich himself and his associates, and for cheating on his taxes. He faces multiple years behind bars at sentencing on April 3.
A deputy mayor who oversaw economic development for ex-Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2016 and 2017, Chan is charged with allegedly arranging indirect bribe payments to city officials by lining up employment contracts for the officials’ relatives.
During his opening statement, Braun said his client was an innocent public servant who got swept up in the case by overly ambitious federal prosecutors. He promised that Chan would take the stand to refute all allegations.
Chan worked for the city for almost three dozen years, serving at one point as the top executive overseeing the Department of Building and Safety, which reviews building plans and inspects construction projects.
Before Huizar signed his plea deal, he and Chan were scheduled to go on trial together.
Two previous trials arising out of the 2020 indictment against Huizar, Chan and various associates have ended in convictions.
In the first Huizar-related trial, a federal jury found Bel Air real estate developer David Lee and 940 Hill LLC, a Lee-controlled company, guilty of felony charges, including fraud and bribery, for providing $500,000 in cash to Huizar and his special assistant in exchange for their help resolving a labor organization’s appeal of their downtown development project.
In the second trial, real estate development company Shen Zhen New World I LLC was found guilty of paying Huizar $1 million in bribes to obtain city approval to build a 77-story skyscraper.
During the Shen Zhen trial, Huizar’s 83-year-old mother, his older brother and Rios testified for the prosecution.
Federal prosecutors have thus far convicted nine defendants and received over $3 million in criminal penalties to resolve the federal probe into two other major real estate development companies, as a result of operation “Casino Loyale,” the investigation into City Hall corruption conducted by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Huizar’s older brother, Salvador Huizar, 57, of Boyle Heights, pleaded guilty last year to lying to FBI agents about receiving envelopes of cash from his brother. He is set to be sentenced in May.